Takata is getting close to potentially entering into a $1 billion settlement with federal prosecutors to resolve allegations of criminal wrongdoing in the Japanese automotive supplier’s handling of airbags that ruptured and caused injuries and deaths. According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the settlement is expected early next year, as early as January. Takata’s lawyers and officials at the U.S. Justice Department are apparently discussing the prospect of the company pleading guilty to criminal misconduct as part of the settlement.
Injuries and Fatalities
The company is expected to pay a financial penalty in the range of $1 billion to settle the case. Prosecutors are also looking into charging Takata with wire fraud after determining that the company likely made misleading statements and hid information about airbags that can explode and spray shrapnel at vehicle occupants, a serious safety issue that has now been linked to 11 deaths and 184 in the U.S.
The most recent death happened in Southern California where a woman was killed in an accident due to a faulty Takata airbag in a used car her son bought at an auction. The criminal probe centers on Takata providing misleading testing reports to customers including Honda Motor Company, which was the largest buyer of the airbags. The faulty airbags have led to an unprecedented auto safety crisis in the U.S. leading to the recall of more than 42 million vehicles, with 70 million airbags at the risk of rupturing.
Consumers in Danger?
What is causing significant concern regarding Takata airbags is the delay in repairing vehicles that have been equipped with them. Many consumers, such as recent victims, have not even been aware that their vehicle has a defective Takata airbag that could kill them in the event of a crash instead of protecting them.
U.S. regulators have increased pressure on Takata and automakers to address the rupture-prone airbags setting new deadlines for recalling and fixing millions of the devices. The airbags that are at risk of exploding and injuring people are those that have had prolonged exposure to heat and humidity that can destabilize the chemical compound (ammonium nitrate) used to inflate the devices. But as we know from recent incidents, these airbags can rupture pretty much anywhere in the country.
If you or a loved one has been injured by one of these defective airbags, you may be eligible to receive compensation for the injuries, damages and losses you have suffered. An experienced auto defect attorney can help you better understand your legal rights and options.